The Essay Question

  • The starting point for any piece of research is normally the question or title of the assignment.
  • However brilliant the essay, it must answer the question or it will not succeed.
  • If you are following a question or title that your tutor has set you, then you must make sure that you follow the instructions given in the wording of the title.

A Photojournalist must ‘get the picture’.  Does the End justify the Means?

Question Components
  • Subject matter or topic – the general subject area that the assignment must be written about.
  • Aspect or focus – the particular angle of the subject matter that you are expected to write about.
  • Restriction or expansion of the subject matter – the parameters of the topic; what limits to the subject matter are implied in the question.
  • Viewpoint – some questions may require you to approach the answer from a particular point of view.

Organise your Research

  • If you have absolutely no idea of what essay topic you want to cover, then doing a bit of background research first is a good way of finding out what has been written about in the past, or what are currently ‘hot topics of discussion’.
  • To analyse your assignment title further you can divide the subject area up into a number of separate concepts, which then make up the whole.
  • Concepts and Synonyms in the essay title: Photojournalism, Working Practice (Means), Photographs (Ends).
  • The concepts and synonyms that you define become the keywords used in searching for information. Thus, when you perform a literature search, the relevant items you retrieve are those that include these specific words.

Features of an Essay

  • Be formal in language and form
  • Be written primarily in the third person
  • Have citations and a bibliography or list of references
  • But an essay should be first and foremost an argument.


  • “My course is better than the one at the University of X”

This is not an argument – it is an opinion.

  • “The course at the University of X is poor because: it is too theoretical, timely feedback is not provided, and it does not challenge students’ imaginations…”

This is an argument

How to Include an Argument 
  • Your essay should have a clear statement of the argument – known as a thesis statement. This should come at the end of the introductory paragraph.
  • This sentence can then ‘drive’ the essay.
  • Guide the reader about what is going to be argued
  • Focus the writer on what must be argued and supported.
  • The rest of the essay will develop the argument with reasons and examples.
  • The test for including any information should be…
  • “Does this contribute to the development of the thesis statement or not?“
  • In essay writing it is not so much what is argued but the clarity and the quality of the argument which counts.

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